EPA Proposes Vessel Discharge Permits

EPA is proposing two general permits under the Clean Water Act (CWA) that will cover discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial and recreational vessels. Based on agency estimates, as many as 91,000 commercial vessels and about 13 million recreational boats could be affected.

"EPA is proposing a practical approach as we work with Congress on a longer-term, comprehensive solution," said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. "We believe it is good environmental policy and common sense to promote clean boating without imposing new permits on millions of boaters."

As a result of a court ruling currently under appeal, vessel owners or operators whose discharges have previously been exempt from CWA requirements for the last 35 years will require a permit as of Sept. 30, 2008. EPA is proposing control technologies and management practices that enhance environmental protection and are practical to implement.

The commercial and large recreational vessel general permit (VGP) would cover all commercial vessels and recreational vessels 79 feet or longer. For vessels that carry ballast water, it would incorporate the Coast Guard mandatory ballast water management and exchange standards, and have supplemental ballast water requirements. The VGP would provide technology-based and water-quality-based effluent limits for other types of discharges including deck runoff, bilgewater, gray water and other types of pollutants. The permit also establishes specific corrective actions, inspections and monitoring requirements as well as recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Only a subset of the vessels potentially affected by this permit will have to submit a Notice of Intent for coverage; coverage for all the other vessels would be automatic.

The permit for smaller recreational vessels measuring less than 79 feet in length contains simpler provisions. These smaller vessels would need to comply with new and established best management practices. In addition, smaller vessels would not be required to submit a Notice of Intent for coverage under the permit; their coverage would be automatic.

EPA is inviting comments on both proposed permits for a period of 45 days. EPA will be holding public meetings:

June 24 - Portland, Oregon meeting

June 26 - Chicago, Illinois meeting

July 2 - public Webcast meeting

July 21 - Washington, DC hearing

Information on the permits and meetings: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/vessels

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